When you own a home, you never know when the day may come that you walk into your basement and notice one of your walls has developed a crack.
Even though finding a crack in your basement wall is always going to be stressful, it can help to know this is actually quite common.
This is especially the case in older homes and in those built on unstable terrain where soil has a high natural moisture content, such as near the beach. But any home can develop a crack in the basement wall given sufficient time and the right types of pressure.
What is important is not to panic, but to take a deep breath and follow the steps we outline in this post.
4 Types of Basement Walls
There are four basic types of basement walls used in residential construction today.
Poured concrete wall
The most common type is the poured concrete wall. As the name indicates, a poured concrete wall is created by pouring wet concrete into some type of wood or metal frame and allowing it to set.
Concrete block wall
The second most common type of wall is the concrete block wall, also sometimes called the cinder block wall or masonry block wall. The name gives its structure away—these are pre-made stacked blocks held together with mortar.
Solid concrete wall
Another relatively common wall type is the pre-made solid concrete wall. With this type of wall, the concrete is poured to set ahead of time and the drywall is then transported to the building site and set into place.
Brick, stone, clay wall
Brick, clay and stone walls are no longer common, but are still found in vintage and historic homes with basements.
3 Types of Basement Wall Cracks
Basement wall cracks can happen for a variety of reasons. However, there are three main categories of triggers for the majority of basement wall cracks.
Shrinkage describes what happens when a poured concrete wall starts to dry. Some amount of shrinkage is to be expected as the poured concrete dries, even under optimal weather and “curing” (concrete drying) conditions.
However, a number of variables can interact to create less than optimal conditions for curing a newly poured concrete wall. Dramatic temperature shifts, sub-optimal concrete mixes, super-wet or dry conditions and other factors can impact how much shrinkage occurs and how that shrinkage affects your basement walls.
Settling is what happens when your basement walls begin to interact with the surrounding soil or water table.
This might happen over time as a result of shifting terrain or changing water table levels or soil composition. Or it could happen more rapidly after a severe weather event such as a major flood.
Movement can include settling. When the surrounding soil and terrain shifts, this can cause your basement walls and foundation to shift.
Poor drainage, blocked window wells or inadequate landscape grading can also cause hydrostatic pressure against one or more basement walls, causing them to bow inward or outward, lean, tilt or bulge.
3 Steps to Take After Noticing a Basement Wall Crack
First and foremost, what you need to know is that any crack in your basement wall always carries a message with it. Your job is to decode the message your basement is sending you and that will tell you what steps to take next.
1. Call in the pros
Unfortunately, most homeowners know little if anything about deciphering basement wall crack messages. For this, you will want to bring in an expert who can examine the crack in detail, figure out how it may have formed and what, if any, action needs to be taken next.
Some cracks are relatively normal, even unavoidable. Shrinkage-related cracks, for example, will nearly always happen when your basement walls are constructed from poured concrete. The goal here is to minimize the shrinkage, not eradicate it entirely.
But other cracks are more serious, even if they don’t always look serious. Some basement wall cracks are so slight they are almost impossible to see with the naked eye, and you can detect them only when a white material called “efflorescence” starts to form near the crack. Efflorescence is a build-up of mineral salts left behind when seeping moisture evaporates.
2. Evaluate your options
Basement experts have all kinds of wonderful technology that can help diagnose what is causing basement cracks, how serious those cracks may be and the best corrective options.
Many homeowners are quite reluctant to reach out to an expert, thinking it will lead to thousands of dollars in basement repair expenses. The important thing to remember here is that you simply need to know what is wrong. You don’t necessarily need to take action to fix it right away.
Some cracks are relatively minor and may only require the help of a dehumidifier to extract excess moisture to prevent mould and mildew growth. For cracks that do represent significant structural impact, the more you can learn about what has caused the crack, the better you can plan ahead and budget to fix it.
3. Create your corrective plan of action
All kinds of creative options are available today to fix foundation cracks.
Sometimes the simplest option is affordable basement waterproofing, which effectively seals up your basement walls and foundation from the inside against cracks and the resultant leaks.
Sometimes a two-step approach is required—first repairing cracks by installing supportive wall anchors, braces or reinforcers and then applying basement waterproofing to prevent additional moisture from entering your basement space.
Get in Touch
Are you concerned because you have recently found evidence of a basement wall crack or moisture seepage inside your basement? We can help!
Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.
There are some times when adding humidity to your indoor air is a good thing. A bit of strategically managed humidity can improve your health, ease the signs of aging skin, fight off static and keep home furnishings in good repair.
But too much humidity or humidity in the wrong places can be damaging. Your basement is one of those places where you just don’t want to have overly humid air.
According to the Basement Health Association, overly humid air is the number one cause of mould, mildew and major basement repairs.
If your basement space always seems overly humid compared to your above-ground environment, it’s time to take action. In this post, we discuss what can cause basement humidity, what it means and how to fix it.
Aiming for the Ideal Humidity Range
Natural Resources Canada strongly recommends maintaining an indoor air humidity level of 30 to 50 percent year-round.
When humidity rises above 50 percent, this creates conditions ripe for mould and mildew to colonize and spread. Similarly, when humidity drops below 30 percent, the extreme dryness can cause respiratory distress for you and creaks and cracks for your wood furnishings.
Because outdoor air humidity levels can fluctuate outside of this range seasonally, sometimes it can be difficult at first to diagnose a problem with basement air humidity.
Why Basements Become Chronically Humid
How does a basement become too humid? The most obvious reason is the presence of a water leak. When moisture seeps into your basement, this naturally raises the moisture content inside the space.
But what many homeowners don’t realize is that often basement leaks are too small to be easily seen. Most basements are made from poured concrete or concrete blocks. Concrete is a naturally porous material that will continue to settle over time.
With shifting soil, storms, changing water table levels and other natural factors, micro-fissures and tiny cracks can begin to form and let in water.
If you never see standing water in your basement but the air is continually humid, you may have one or several of these tiny micro-fissures allowing water to slowly infiltrate your basement space.
Of course, leaks can get much bigger, and sometimes outright cracks will form and you can see water coming in.
Clogs or drainage blocks
Clogged gutters, blocked window wells, malfunctioning downspouts or shifting landscaping can compound the issue and create a situation where water enters with increasing ease.
Another way water come in is when the sump pump system begins to wear out. This can happen due to old age or increasing demand that the sump system was never designed to handle.
What Happens When Your Basement Is Chronically Humid
Why be concerned about a chronically humid basement?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites a number of concerning health and structural issues that can arise when your basement is overly humid or damp.
Over time, a chronically humid basement may cause warped, bowed or sagging walls and floors, mould and mildew, bacteria growth, damage and destruction of stored materials or basement furnishings, windows and doors that won’t open or close and similar structural issues.
Similarly, basement humidity can cause issues with your above-ground structure as well, especially once mould and mildew take hold and begin to spread, leading to extensive and costly remediation work.
How to Fix a Humid Basement
Having a basement can increase your resale value by adding useable space. But it can also become a headache when maintenance needs arise.
There are two ways to approach fixing a chronically humid or damp basement space.
Put a band-aid on it
The first is what we call a “band-aid” approach. You can install a portable dehumidifier to pull moisture out of the air. For minor issues with basement humidity, sometimes this is all that’s needed for a time.
But this isn’t what we recommend for a long-term solution. You can be pretty sure that your basement humidity issues are not going to resolve on their own!
Even if you don’t have any desire to sell your home right now, not properly fixing the issue can be a liability when you do want to put your home on the market. More importantly, ignoring or band-aiding chronic basement moisture issues can cause structural issues with your whole home over time.
Waterproof your basement
Affordable basement waterproofing is one of the hands-down best ways to fix a humid basement permanently. There are two methods for how to fix a leaky basement: exterior waterproofing and interior waterproofing.
From a basement waterproofing cost perspective, we typically recommend the latter.
In fact, waterproofing your basement from the outside is typically financially feasible only as a preventative approach to protect new basement construction. For existing homes with humid or leaking basements, interior basement waterproofing works just as well and is vastly more affordable!
For micro-fissures that are permitting a bit of extra moisture to seep in, interior basement waterproofing alone is often sufficient to solve the problem permanently.
If your basement has developed a larger crack that is letting in more water, or if you have blocked window wells or issues with your above-ground drainage or landscaping, we may recommend a combination approach that includes repairs and interior basement waterproofing to protect your home and basement from humidity over the long term.
The good news is, interior waterproofing can be done on a finished or an unfinished basement space. If your basement is unfinished, the interior waterproofing treatment will not impact the option for finishing your basement at a later date.
Get in Touch
Are you concerned because your basement always seems uncomfortably humid? We can help!
Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.
That white flaky stuff you see is called “efflorescence.” It’s mineral salt residue that gets left behind when water evaporates. Sometimes it looks like white dust at first, but then you realize it’s in the middle of the wall or in another odd spot where dust normally doesn’t collect.
So what is efflorescence? How does it get there? What does it mean and what should you do? That is what we will discuss in this post!
Efflorescence: What Is It & Where Does It Come From?
At its most fundamental, water is a molecule made up of atoms. The water molecule contains precisely three atoms: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (or H2O, as you probably know). But water can also have lots of other things in it, too!
Water is what chemists call a solvent—a substance that has the power to dissolve other substances. In fact, water is a universal solvent, which means it can dissolve more different types of substances than any other solvent on the planet.
As well, the way water is constructed, with two positively charged hydrogen atoms and one negatively charged oxygen atom, lots of substances that need dissolving are naturally attracted to it. Salts, minerals, chemicals and other substances are drawn to water, so water picks these substances up as it flows toward wherever it’s going.
Then it gets to your basement—from a recent storm or a rising water table, or from sprinkler system runoff or some other route—and it is carrying all these other substances with it. What happens next?
How Efflorescence Gets Into Your Basement
“Efflorescence” comes from a French word that means “to flower out.” This is exactly what efflorescence does! That dusty white matter you see is composed of the mineral salts “flowering out” as the water that carried them inside your basement evaporates, leaving them high and dry (so to speak) and in plain sight.
What is interesting about the building blocks of the typical basement structure—concrete blocks, poured concrete, masonry bricking—is that this material is naturally somewhat porous. Basically, this means that water can and does regularly penetrate the material.
In past centuries, when basements were installed directly over cellars as a point of access to food supplies stored beneath, no one much cared if the basement area took on a bit of water or became seasonally humid. But today, people live, work and play in basements, which are viewed as an extension of the home’s useful space.
So today, when a new basement is being constructed, some type of initial damp-proofing protection is typically applied. But this initial application has a shelf life, which can be shortened further by shifting soil, changing water table levels, ground settling and other factors.
As the initial damp-proofing wears off, porous concrete begins to take on moisture in a number of ways. This moisture makes its way through tiny capillaries and pores in the concrete and seeps into your basement, where it slowly evaporates and leaves behind its calling card—dried mineral salts, or efflorescence.
What Efflorescence Is Trying to Tell You
As you may have figured out by now, efflorescence is carrying a message from your basement to you to let you know moisture is getting inside somehow.
Its primary routes may be micro-fissures or capillaries—tiny channels so small they can be nearly impossible to perceive with the unaided eye. Water can also enter through larger fissures or cracks that are visible.
Another way water routinely gets in is through windows when window well drains get backed up or simply degrade and stop working. Water can also seep up from the ground through your foundation and cause dampness on the basement floor.
If this seepage is quite slow, efflorescence may be the only warning sign to alert you that your basement has a leak.
Here, it can help to do an initial walk-through and note the areas where you see efflorescence. Next, clean the white powder away from those areas and wait a few days and do another walk-through. Notice if you see efflorescence everywhere or just in one specific area. This will give you information about where and how moisture may be entering.
What to Do About Efflorescence in Your Basement
Learning how to control damp, moisture and water leaks inside basements is an ongoing science. As homes get older, new problems are discovered and new solutions are created to solve those problems.
The best step after discovering basement efflorescence and doing your basement walk-through to find as many affected areas as you can is to contact a professional to inspect and evaluate your basement’s risk level for water damage.
In some cases, the risk may be low and a dehumidifier can handle the moisture removal to buy you some time to budget and plan. In other cases, the moisture may point to a bigger structural issue that needs resolution before it worsens and turns into a major repair.
Affordable basement waterproofing options exist to prevent moisture damage in your basement, provide peace of mind and improve the future resale value of your home. Best of all, waterproofing basement walls from inside will not impact the usability of your basement space.
Get in Touch
Are you concerned by the presence of efflorescence inside your basement? We can help!
Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.